Parts Express Angled, Locking, and Stacking Banana Plug – A Tale of Three Banana Plugs – A Review

Manufacturer & Model
Parts Express – Angled, Locking, and Stacking Banana Plug – PN 091-3608
MSRP
$22.96 - 2 Pair
Link
https://www.parts-express.com/Stacking-Banana-Plug-with-Dual-Set-Screws-Poly-Carbonate-Sh-091-3608
Highlights
The locking pin separates the plug, increasing the retention force
Stackable for use with bi-wired speakers
Angled for lower wire strain
Color-coded polycarbonate shells
Dual hex screws for maximum cable retention
24 karat gold plated contact surfaces
Milled Solid Brass
Summary
These locking, expanding, and stackable banana plug connectors are manufactured with color-coded polycarbonate shells for quick polarity identification and protection from possible short circuits. The angled body allows for stacking multiple connectors atop each other and lower wire strain. The connectors are milled from solid brass and plated with 24 karat gold. Each connector features two hex-head setscrews that hold the speaker wire firmly in place in the wire barrel to create a solid connection. Integral to the design of these banana plugs is a central spike, driven by the insulated thumbscrew, which spreads the banana plug tines. This action firmly locks the banana plug into 5-way binding posts, banana jacks, and stacked banana plugs for a worry-free connection. The connectors accept up to 8 AWG wires.
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The Review
If you are anything like me, and opinions vary on whether you should be, you are always looking about, trying to find better ways of doing things. One of the many things I have investigated in the past with an eye toward increased utility, effectivity, and efficiency has been banana plugs. Yes, banana plugs.

Especially lately, with all the speaker and electronics reviews I have had the opportunity to do, I have been looking at more reliable and effective ways of swapping out equipment quickly and safely.

But even though this is ostensibly a review about the Parts Express Angled, Locking, and Stacking Banana Plug, it is really a tale of THREE locking banana plugs.

In my quest for the perfect banana plug, I have tried several, both the “standard” and the locking variety, and I’ve found that I like the security of the locking type of banana plug in my system. In this short review, I will focus on the Parts Express banana plug and compare that plug to two others I currently have in my system. The three banana plugs used in this mini-comparison are,

  1. Parts Express Angled, Locking and Stacking banana plug - $22.96 for two pair
  2. GLS inline locking banana plug - $35.97 for ten pair
  3. Blue Jeans Cable inline locking banana plug (manufacturer unknown) - $7.25 for one pair
First, the review, and then a bit of commentary and comparison.

Construction and Design
The Parts Express plugs are constructed of solid milled brass plated with 24 karat gold. A magnet confirmed they are indeed non-ferrous. The brass is then covered with a polycarbonate shell to protect against the possibility of catastrophic short circuits. The locking mechanism is capped with “color-coded” polycarbonate caps in red and black.

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The caps are press-fitted to a central threaded and tapered brass “spike” that extends into the split ferrule of the banana plug. As the cap is twisted, the spike expands the ferrule, “locking” the banana plug into place. The hole in the twist-cap is the entrance to the milled-in socket in the “spike” that allows additional banana plugs to be conveniently stacked onto the connector.

The plugs can accept up to an 8 AWG wire in the machined barrel, and the wire is held securely by two bass Allen-head setscrews. A tiny Allen wrench is supplied with each pair of plugs. If using smaller than twelve-gauge wire, you will have to double, or even triple fold, the wire-end, and tin it into a solid mass to ensure the setscrews get sufficient purchase on the wire for a reliable connection.

In operation, the plugs work very well. The thumbscrew cap expands the ferrule to a tight, very tight, grip in any banana jack I tried. The plug ferrule, when torqued down, was tight to the point of not turning in the barrel of the jack.

The angle of the plug was well implemented and provided a reasonable reduction of right-angle stain and downward pull on the wires where they exit the plug.

So how did the Parts Express Banana Plug compare with my older locking banana plugs?

Locking Mechanism –
The locking mechanism of the Parts Express plug was much more positive than the Blue Jeans Cable Plug or the GLS Plug.

The locking mechanism of both the inline plugs was similar in design. However, the design implementation was much better on the Blue Jeans Cables plug than on the GLS plug. The Blue Jeans Plugs are MUCH SMOOTHER in operation, and I could easily hand-tighten to a firm connection. The GLS plug was very tough to hand-tighten, requiring me to grip the end of the plug to keep it stationary while rotating the threaded shell that pushes against the locking mechanism.

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Materials - All three plugs claim brass as the primary material. The GLS plug is the only plug that specifies the type of bass (High-Grade H59-1). The Parts Express plug is the only plug to claim the body of the plug is milled from solid brass. However, the construction of all three banana plugs is solid milled brass in the body of the plug, and it is the only construction technique that makes sense in this scenario. The shells on the Blue Jeans Cables and GLS plugs must be steel, with both of those plugs exhibiting some magnetic attraction (ferrous properties).

The brass setscrews on the Parts Express plugs use an Allen head design, while the GLS and Blue Jeans Cables plugs use a tiny, slotted design intended to be used with a flat blade screwdriver. In my opinion, the Allen head approach is FAR SUPERIOR to the slotted head design allowing the setscrews to be much more tightly embedded into the wire for better connection. The Allen head design also dramatically reduces the chance of damaging the screw head or the screwdriver itself. I can testify this is a valid concern, having done it “sooooo” many times in the past!

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Utility – The easy winner is the Parts Express plug. The angled design acts as a strain relief, the polycarbonate shell protects from short circuit events, and the ability to stack connectors is a big plus. With my heavier wires (10 gauge), I have insulated the positive connectors of the Blue Jeans or GLS plugs with a bit of shrink wrap. With the lighter gauge wires, there is less possibility of the weight of the cables pulling the plug shells together, so I forewent the shrink wrap coat.

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Blue Jeans Cable Locking Banana Plug stacked on the Parts Express Angled, Locking and Stacking Banana Plug


Summary and Closing Thoughts
Is there anything the Parts Express Angled, Locking, and Stacking Banana Plug does wrong or could improve on? Any concerns or nit-picks?

Nothing major that I could see! There were only two small, very personal nit-picks I could dredge up.

  1. The caps are supposed to be color-coded. Indeed, they are. Unfortunately, for a somewhat colorblind (red/green) user like me, I had difficulty decerning the red from the black in almost any lighting condition. As a workaround, I wrapped a piece of red vinyl tape (I can see bright red or red in large enough swaths) around the barrel of the positive lead.
  2. The plastic tensioning caps felt flimsy when I first torqued them down. So, I was initially hesitant, fearing breaking the cap. But my fears were unfounded, and even when I tried to over-tighten or intentionally break them, I could not!

So, there you have it! Below is my rating for the different plugs based on what I consider the most important criteria.

Positivity of Connection and Locking Mechanism Rating (Retention)
1st Place - Parts Express
2nd Place - Blue Jeans Cable
3rd Place – GLS Audio

Overall Construction

1st Place - Parts Express
2nd Place – Blue Jeans Cable
3rd Place – GLS Audio

Utility

1st Place – Parts Express
2nd Place – Blue Jeans Cable
3rd Place – GLS Audio

Functionality

1st Place (Tied) Parts Express and Blue Jeans Cable
2nd Place – GLS Audio

If we look purely at cost, ignoring the other categories, then the GLS Audio Locking Banana Plug is the clear winner at $3.51 a pair. The following cost leader is the Blue Jeans Cables Locking Banana Plug at $7.25 a pair.

However, should cost be the final determiner? I don’t think it should be! Functionality and utility carry far more weight on my scorecard than cost (in this case!). And, if that is the selection criteria you would follow as well, the Parts Express Angled, Locking, and Stacking Banana Plug is the clear winner, with the Blue Jeans Cable Locking Banana Plug scoring right behind it in terms of pure functionality and the GLS Audio plug a somewhat distant third.

Let me know if you have found the “Holy Grail” of banana plugs. I’m always interested in a better way to do things!

Cheers!

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Coy Ramsey

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Nice review. Pics are very helpful. So far, since I haven't changed anything in 2.5 yrs, I just use bare wire connections but banana plugs are interesting !
 

sfm2476

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I've used these for both speaker and receiver speaker wire connections and have found them very handy. Color coded, stackable, and no-tool firm connections for both wires connected to them and the banana plugs themselves, even when stacked ($6.95 for a two pack). Admittedly, Radio Shack used to carry a slightly beefier variation, but these work well just the same. Also handy for one setup where I need to be able to easily disconnect the speaker wires mid-run (I know; the horror! - not to worry; that's a garage setup).One advantage to these is that the speaker wire connects very close to the banana jack end of the plug so the weight of the wires is supported nearly as close to the back of the receiver/speaker as possible reducing the strain on the jacks that the plugs fit into.
 

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Tom L.

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Nice review. Pics are very helpful. So far, since I haven't changed anything in 2.5 yrs, I just use bare wire connections but banana plugs are interesting !
Hi Coy!
As a reviewer, banana plugs are the bomb for quick and secure changeout of speakers and electronics.

When your system loadout is stable then I would agree that bare, tinned, or pin terminated wire is the best, most secure way of connection with the most contact surface!

Thanks for reading!

Tom
 

Tom L.

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I've used these for both speaker and receiver speaker wire connections and have found them very handy. Color coded, stackable, and no-tool firm connections for both wires connected to them and the banana plugs themselves, even when stacked ($6.95 for a two pack). Admittedly, Radio Shack used to carry a slightly beefier variation, but these work well just the same. Also handy for one setup where I need to be able to easily disconnect the speaker wires mid-run (I know; the horror! - not to worry; that's a garage setup).
I‘ve tried various versions of these banana plugs with decent results. The convenience can’t be beat!
 

ebrumbaugh

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Nice review, thank you. I'm switching my home theater and 2-channel systems over to the Parts Express angled/locking/stacking banana plugs. While I like the "straight-stick" banana plugs that I used on the cables I made, these look to be much better, and definitely value added.
 

Tom L.

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Thanks Ed!

Sometimes it’s the little things in the audio life that matter so much! :cool: I’m sure you will happy with these plugs!

T
 

Todd Anderson

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I like this review, so much great info... I've resorted to buying factory terminate speaker wire from Monoprice. I'll add a photo to this thread when I'm down in my workshop later today... but the terminated ends have a screw-on metal cap that ALWAYS falls off. I've slowly been adding blue loctite to every cap (which stops the problem from happening), but until that's done the metal caps have a nasty habit of falling off and getting lost. Will drive you a tad nutty!

I've tried the GLS style locking plugs in the past... also found them super hard to hand tighten. Those were a one-time buy!
 

Tom L.

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I like this review, so much great info... I've resorted to buying factory terminate speaker wire from Monoprice. I'll add a photo to this thread when I'm down in my workshop later today... but the terminated ends have a screw-on metal cap that ALWAYS falls off. I've slowly been adding blue loctite to every cap (which stops the problem from happening), but until that's done the metal caps have a nasty habit of falling off and getting lost. Will drive you a tad nutty!

I've tried the GLS style locking plugs in the past... also found them super hard to hand tighten. Those were a one-time buy!
Hi Todd,

Thanks!

Id like to see the pics of the Monoprice terminations when you get to it!

I agree on the GLS tightening issue. I had to finally grab the back end with needle-nose pliers to hold it while I turned the shell to tighten it down… awkward. The BJ plugs operate smoothly and Are easily hand-tightened despite what appears to be a similar design.

I think I will stick with the well thought out Parts Express plugs for now, eventually replacing all, or most, of my banana plugs.

T
 

lemoncadillac

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Hi
I have been using a version of these or 15 years+. I have owned and still own every make and model available. This is my go to style. Double set screws and the angle relieves the stress of heavy gauge speaker wire. 1 precaution, they make a version of these that do not have the clear plastic insulating shell. Avoid this version. To easy to cause a short without that clear housing. I actually have a brand new set of these 45 Degree Locking Banana Plug Rhodium Plated sitting on my stairs for a new install of a Sunfire TGA-7401 THEATER GRAND AMPLIFIER 7 channel amplifier. I'm going to replace al of the gold model I have now. Also makes for a clean looking install also.
45 Degree Locking Banana Plug Rhodium Plated.jpg


My 2 cents
Lemon
 

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Tom L.

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Hi
I have been using a version of these or 15 years+. I have owned and still own every make and model available. This is my go to style. Double set screws and the angle relieves the stress of heavy gauge speaker wire. 1 precaution, they make a version of these that do not have the clear plastic insulating shell. Avoid this version. To easy to cause a short without that clear housing. I actually have a brand new set of these 45 Degree Locking Banana Plug Rhodium Plated sitting on my stairs for a new install of a Sunfire TGA-7401 THEATER GRAND AMPLIFIER 7 channel amplifier. I'm going to replace al of the gold model I have now. Also makes for a clean looking install also. View attachment 53155

My 2 cents
Lemon
Nice looking plugs! Who makes these and where to buy?
 

Tom L.

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Hi
I have been using a version of these or 15 years+. I have owned and still own every make and model available. This is my go to style. Double set screws and the angle relieves the stress of heavy gauge speaker wire. 1 precaution, they make a version of these that do not have the clear plastic insulating shell. Avoid this version. To easy to cause a short without that clear housing. I actually have a brand new set of these 45 Degree Locking Banana Plug Rhodium Plated sitting on my stairs for a new install of a Sunfire TGA-7401 THEATER GRAND AMPLIFIER 7 channel amplifier. I'm going to replace al of the gold model I have now. Also makes for a clean looking install also. View attachment 53155

My 2 cents
Lemon
Thanks!
 

jschwender

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Nice review. Would be nice to see some conductive measurement on these. I bet the parts-express plugs are by far the best. The screw geared spreader clamp has best chances to result in a hery high area pressure, which is the one and only parameter for contact resistance. So this is not just a locking mechanism against accidental fall out, it enables high pressure built up combined with low actuation friction. Unlike in other detachable high current contacts, the high force is mostly reduced for plugging. This way the wear to the coating is minimal. Kind of brilliant.
 

Tom L.

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I think you are correct! The mechanism that spreads the split ferrule does so in a very positive way.
 

BarrRobot

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If using smaller than twelve-gauge wire, you will have to double, or even triple fold, the wire-end, and tin it into a solid mass to ensure the setscrews get sufficient purchase on the wire for a reliable connection.
NO! NO! NO! Don't 'tin' the wires. Solder flows under pressure, and in time the contact force will reduce, leading to an unreliable connection. Copper on its own has a degree of resilience that will maintain the contact pressure when the screw is tightened.
 

Tom L.

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NO! NO! NO! Don't 'tin' the wires. Solder flows under pressure, and in time the contact force will reduce, leading to an unreliable connection. Copper on its own has a degree of resilience that will maintain the contact pressure when the screw is tightened.
I stand corrected! My ”old school” notion that tinning the wires is a good thing has apparently been now posited as something that should no longer be done in a pressure/crimped scenario.

Thank you for your imput!
 
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